Nationals sign pitcher-turned-hitter Owings

Nationals sign pitcher-turned-hitter Owings
February 6, 2013, 12:00 pm
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Mike Rizzo drafted Micah Owings in 2005 as one of the top pitching prospects in the country out of Tulane University. Owings, though, always possessed strong offensive skills, so after his pitching career stalled out he decided to make another run at it as a first baseman.

And the man who will give him an opportunity to complete that transformation is none other than Rizzo.

The Nationals have signed Owings to a minor-league contract, with an invitation to big-league camp. His odds of making the Opening Day roster appear slim at best, but if Owings is willing to go to Class AAA Syracuse and prove he can consistently hit as a regular position player, he could find his way back to D.C. at some point.

Owings, 30, was drafted by Rizzo in 2005 when the latter was scouting director for the Diamondbacks. He debuted two years later and over six seasons with Arizona, Cincinnati and San Diego went 32-33 with a 4.83 ERA in 138 games (68 starts).

A forearm injury landed Owings on the disabled list early last year and with recovery progressing slowly he decided to attempt to return as a position player. But he continued to experience pain in his arm while working out at the Padres' spring training complex in Peoria, Ariz., and in July decided to have surgery to remove bone chips from his elbow.

Now healthy again, Owings will try to complete his comeback, this time from first base instead of the pitcher's mound.

He's always been a gifted offensive player and over 219 career plate appearances sports a .283 batting average, nine homers and a stout .813 OPS.  In three college seasons at Georgia Tech and Tulane, he blasted 48 homers.

A 6-foot-5, right-handed hitter, Owings has only appeared in one game in the field as a professional (at Class AAA Tucson, successfully handling five fielding chances at first base).

Though he's officially being listed as a first baseman, Owings said last summer he wanted to be "a position player who can also pitch."

Whether the Nationals give him a chance to take the mound again remains to be seen.